Magazine article Metro Magazine

Putting Your Movie Online

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Putting Your Movie Online

Article excerpt

Hosting your video online is always going to involve compromise, given the shrinking needed to pass even a short movie through the average Internet connection. Even with a rapidly increasing broadband audience, careful efforts are needed to compress your movie effectively and allow it to be optimally viewed by a wide audience across many platforms (or even a specific audience with known connection speeds and machines). Specialist compression software packages are thankfully taking some of the hard work away from this, but given the diverse platforms, media players and bandwidth options available, some pre-planning will help make that process as painless as possible.

Adapting to Web Limitations

Watching video online is commonly described as watching blocky pixels fighting on a matchbox, and while it has grown more sophisticated (no, really), it's useful to keep that in mind, regardless of the bandwidth available. Your wonderful cinematography will probably be viewed on a 320 wide by 240 pixel high window (upgrade that matchbox to a cigarette packet) rather than a multi-level IMAX theatre, which suggests that fine and subtle visual details should not be relied upon as either plot devices or visual cues. Aside from being difficult to see in a much smaller window, fine details are the first to go during the compression process.

Video for the web tends to favour close-ups and mid-shots over long and wide shots, and better results are achieved when camera movement and onscreen movement are minimized. Compression software works in part by comparing differences between successive frames of video, and so zooming, panning, transitions such as dissolves and fades, and on-screen action, all mean your video files will end up bigger. This isn't as much of an issue if you are aiming at broadband and larger bandwidth audiences, to which you can send larger files, but it is still worth considering, as screen movement and frame differences also mean compression takes longer to process. These are all just general principles to keep a video looking as good as possible on a 56k modem--which is always going to be a stretch--and are stated here so you can at least know some of the rules you are breaking.

Capturing Issues

If your movie for the web involves some footage shot on a video camera, it's worth considering how you capture that footage before you do anything else with it. Even though web movies tend to be within small windows, it's still best to capture at the highest resolution possible as this allows the best quality possible compression of the image. The more pixels compression software has to play with when compressing a movie, the better the end result is going to look. Capturing at DV-PAL resolution is recommended (720 x 576) if you can manage the extra storage space it requires--generally 250mb per minute. To confuse matters a little, DV-PAL is also a codec (we'll get to those later), which means it 'compresses' the size of the video as it captures it. Although most video capturing software allow the use of a wide range of codecs when capturing, it's best to retain as much quality and data as possible until you have finished editing your movie and then compress your movie, rather than reducing its quality at several steps of the movie-making process. The DV-PAL codec is good for capturing as it retains most of the quality while reducing the storage space needed.

Interlacing In A Nutshell

Television screens are made up of many horizontal lines. Interlacing is a video display technique whereby all odd numbered horizontal scan lines are updated first, and all even-numbered scan lines are updated next. The end results are fine for the human eye and, by refreshing sets of alternate lines, the screen has half the amount of work to do. We have faster screen technology available now, but we are still attached to the older standards, which means even digital camcorders actually record fifty pictures per second, each with half the height of the frame. …

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